Two out-of-work actresses, Jane Marsh and Eileen Atkins, started brainstorming, and the result was one of the most beloved British series of all time. The Edwardian melodrama, which chronicles the dual lives of the aristocratic Bellamys and their servants, sat on a shelf for months because BBC executives thought viewers would change the channel "by the thousands." Instead, it picked up nine Emmys and a Peabody. What was groundbreaking 30-odd years ago can come across as stagey to modern eyes, but the acting is uniformly good, and the casual class brutality still burns. If picture and sound quality is a concern, save your money - this edition is just a repackaged version of earlier releases. It does, however, include all the episodes of the spinoff "Thomas & Sarah."
Extras: For $250, you'd think they'd pull out all the stops; instead, viewers must content themselves with a staid 25th anniversary retrospective. Grade: B
- Yvonne Zipp
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" is a movie that even Johnny Depp fans strain to love - his performance as Willy Wonka, the eccentric owner of the titular chocolate factory, is too self-conscious and off-puttingly nonhuman. If you did manage to savor this visually stunning tale about Wonka and Charlie, the poor little boy who teaches him to love something more than sweets, then no doubt you will enjoy the endless extras on the DVD - how the effects wizards cloned one actor into an army of Oompa Loompa factory workers, for example. In addition to a tutorial on how to do the Oompa Loompa dance, the second disc takes a closer look at novelist Roald Dahl, who wrote the original story. Grade: B
- Gloria Goodale